“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” — John 4:14.
The Bible mentions “water” 107 times. Almost all of these references are deeply symbolic: water represents cleansing, forgiveness and life– something precious and infinitely valuable. Unfortunately in a land where water has become nearly “invisible”, it can be easy to forget the importance of water…
My favorite story about water conservation is a folktale from Australia. The story goes like this:
One day the frog drank up all the water in the pond. The kangaroos came to the pond and saw that it was dry. “Hey, Water Frog”, they said “don’t be so selfish, we need water too!”
But, the Water Frog didn’t listen. Instead he went off to the River. There he drank up all of that water. “Hey Water Frog”, said the Turtles and the Fish, “don’t be so selfish, we need water too!”
But the Water Frog didn’t listen. Instead he went off to the Lake. There he drank up all of that water. “Hey Water Frog”, said the Birds “don’t be so selfish, we need water too!” But the Water Frog didn’t listen.
Now there was no more water in the land so the Water Frog began to burrow into the mud. But the animals decided that if they could make the Water Frog laugh, all the water would be returned.
In the story the other animals eventually succeed in getting the water frog to laugh, returning all the selfishly stored up water back to the ecosystem. But real water shortage problems are not quiet that simple!
The real “water frogs of the world” are humans. We don’t soak up the water into our bodies, instead we carelessly send it down the drain.
It took me a while to wrap my head around this and figure out why this was a problem. For one thing water use tends to be invisible. I don’t really know how much water I use per day. Its hidden in pipes and tanks. It just magically comes out of the sink when I turn the faucet. And then it magically disappears down the drain– often before I have even turned off the faucet! So I have no visual cues telling me how much water I used to wash my hands or brush my teeth, take a shower or flush the potty.
But, according to the USGS on average each American uses about 100 gallons of water per day for cleaning and cooking. Just imagine how big you would be if you were the sand frog! (100 gallons of water would weigh 834 pounds! Yikes!)
I admit that for most of my life I have been the worst of the water frogs! I’d seen the diagram of the water cycle and I figured that I didn’t actually absorb the water into myself, so it must happily makes its way back into the natural water cycle right?
Unfortunately, not quiet. The way in which we use water is not a part of the natural water cycle.
For one thing we tend to mix it all together down the same drains and pipes so that what is sometimes termed “grey water” (water that could not be used for drinking, but is still relatively clean) gets mixed with toilet water and toxins. This water all has to be removed from the water cycle for a time in order to be cleaned. Part of the problem is that this purification process requires time, energy and resources and our current water usage is so high that the water can not be put back into the natural water system quickly enough.
Also, the water cycle doesn’t guarantee that the water will be returned to earth in the location that people want it!
The other problem is that in addition to just diverting water from the water cycle for a while, we are also taking water that is currently “out on break”–ground water. Usually water that is removed from groundwater aquifers doesn’t get put back into that aquifer. This creates a big hole underground. Large land areas in Califoria (and other places) are actually SINKING because of this– in some places as much as 30 feet!
All of this means that despite the fact that water seems like magic– it’s not. Despite the fact that our water is nearly invisible, we need to try to notice how much we are using.
So for the Month of March, as the rains start falling, and the snow starts melting, our family invites you to join us in paying attention to water in pipes and drains. There are several ways to do this:
Middle and High schoolers: research some of the innovative methods for large scale water conservation. Science has come up with some great ideas! Check out some of these:
Still the greatest idea of all is — remember water is precious, valuable, and scared.
Isaiah 12:3 uses water as symbolism for salvation
“With joy you will draw water from the
wells of salvation.”